It’s been another record-breaking year for Veganuary, a task made easier by the wider array of products on the market. Our focus has been on looking beyond the headlines to identify what consumers really think about some of these new plant-based foods. We recruited 50 Flexitarians, Vegetarians and Vegans to find out!
While Taste remains a key driver of overall enjoyment, it is often Texture that determines success in this market.
Replicating the melting point of a Cheddar or the melt-in-the-mouth consistency of chocolate is a real challenge. Plant based foods often lack the satisfactory bite/chew of meat or the richness of meat-based alternatives.
Dryness can also be an issue for some Vegan options, - not only for savoury products such as deep-fried Falafel or a heavy-going nut roast, but also for sweet products. Just Love Food’s Vegan Chocolate Cake promised much (31*), but the ‘dense’/’dry’ sponge made it less of a treat, a criticism we noted last year with Wicked Kitchen’s Red Velvet Brownie (30*). Much more successful was the moister Asda’s Vegan Chocolate Torte (42*). The absence of dairy can be an asset for this type of treat, where the cleaner ingredients list allows the richness and depth of chocolate flavour to come through.
Many mock-meat products are soya based but some of the more successful Vegan ready meals we’ve tested are more inventive in their use of ingredients. For example, Asda’s Plant Based Tikka Masala (38*) is made with cauliflower, chick peas and spinach, while Morrison’s V Taste Coconut Katsu Curry Melt blends edamame beans, spinach, white rice and coconut and came in at number 18 in last year’s Top 100 with a score of 46*.
There are clear signs that the quality of plant-based meat substitutes is getting better, but many are highly processed. Asda’s Vegan Beef Burgers (37*) is a noticeable success story, providing a ‘juicy’ texture that tasted surprisingly ‘meaty’. This is a marked improvement when compared with a couple of meat substitutes we tested last year: Vivera Veggie Chilli Lemon Chicken Pieces (33*) which were too ‘slimy’/’rubbery’ or the ‘spongy’ consistency of Oumph! Salty & Salty Plant Protein (27*).
Gregg’s Vegan Sausage Rolls and Steakbake have received much positive press coverage. The light, crisp pastry and moist well-seasoned filling in these products - as well as other brands such as Ginsters Vegan Quorn Pasty - make them a tempting food-to-go option for part-time vegetarians and vegans alike. M&S’s Plant Kitchen No Pork Sausage Rolls (29*) appear to have the pastry perfected. Its soya-based filling was ‘moist’, but the ‘bland’ filling meant the pork was much missed, particularly by our Flexitarians.
While some of us may accept a product that doesn’t taste as good as a non-vegan equivalent in the short-term, continual compromise is likely to test our long-term commitment. The focus for 2020 must surely be one of Quality over Quantity and taste centric innovation. Innovation for novelty or bandwagon purposes rarely wins out amongst consumers in the long-term.
*All Foodfax Products tested are scored out of 50. We are now testing a range of Vegan products each month. Check out our website to find out more: